The Rise of Digital Diplomacy

Making Diplomacy Accessible to the People

2020 / February

Tina Xie /photos courtesy of Kent Chuang /tr. by Phil Newell

Interpersonal interactions are at the heart of diplomacy, and in the age of social media, technology makes it possible to convey friendship between countries even more rapidly and widely. And it is not just frontline diplomatic personnel who can feel this warmth—every ­netizen can do so too.

Social media not only create an avenue for direct interaction between foreign affairs agencies and citizens, they also make it possible for countries to enjoy a wider range of contacts and closer ties.

In July of 2019, the Department of International Information Services (DIIS) of the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs worked with the Taiwan offices of Facebook to hold a joint “Digital Diplomacy Workshop.” Staff from the DIIS responsible for new media and personnel from foreign countries’ representative offices in Taiwan were invited to attend and discuss their experiences in handling new media.

Speaking for Taiwan through multiple channels

DIIS deputy director-general Volkan C.Y. Huang noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) is currently active on three social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—and also has a YouTube channel, “Trending Taiwan.”

On Facebook, MOFA’s focus is on day-to-day foreign affairs, using posts to tell fans from Taiwan and abroad about new foreign policies of Taiwan and ongoing inter­national interactions. Instagram is used to tell stories through pictures, often using images that capture the most moving moments of international relations in hopes of evoking Taiwan’s unique value in the international community. In contrast to these two, most Twitter users are from English-speaking countries, and given the platform’s immediate, uncluttered nature, it is often used to express the government’s position on issues of interest.

JW, the Twitter handle of Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Jaushieh Wu, has become a notable mark inter­nationally. Whenever Taiwan is treated unfairly, “JW” will clearly express his views on the issue. Moreover, the MOFA Twitter feed has many followers among foreign political figures, media, and non-governmental organizations, who routinely make contact and interact on social media. Even when their countries have no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, so long as there are shared ideals, these people will speak up for Taiwan at important moments.

The aim of the “Trending Taiwan” YouTube channel, meanwhile, is to tell stories through video to inform the inter­national community about Taiwan’s “soft power.” In 2015 MOFA decided to found this video channel in order to replace abstruse and intricate policy statements with films about people’s daily lives, using narrative videos to promote Taiwan. Trending Taiwan also produces relevant films for major international events in order to extol Taiwan’s ideals and capabilities.

On the eve of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2018, Trending Taiwan put out a short film entitled A Perfect Pair about how a Vietnamese girl named Nguyen Thi Loan, who was suffering from elephantiasis in one leg due to lymphedema, was restored to health and started a new life thanks to help from a Taiwanese medical team. Through this story, Taiwan wanted to demonstrate to the World Health Organization our nation’s medical capabilities and determina­tion to contribute to world health, as expressed in the slogan “Health for all—Taiwan can help.” The video attracted over 10 million views, with one-tenth of the viewers coming from Loan’s homeland of Vietnam. Viewers from other nations left comments saying how moved they were by the film, or supporting Taiwan’s participation in the WHA. The Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the US Department of State retweeted the video, indicating their recognition of the quality of healthcare in Taiwan.

Interactivity: The key to managing social media

At the workshop Amanda Mansour, spokesperson of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), shared AIT’s Facebook strategy and summed up the reasons for the rapid increase in the number of fans. In particular, fan numbers grew by at least 20% following a series of activities held in 2019 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act.

Not only has there been a rapid increase in the number of fans on AIT’s Facebook page, its posts show a high degree of interactivity, averaging 3000 to 5000 hits. Looking at their content—the US perspective on Taiwan’s presidential election, an interview at home with the AIT director, Fourth of July celebrations, a Q&A on the US’ “vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific”—the posts all exemplify the four principles advocated by Sharon Yang, a member of Facebook’s Politics and Government Outreach team: timeliness, authenticity, experimenting with new formats, and interactivity (building community).

For the “vision for a free and open Indo‡Pacific,” AIT’s new media team planned out a week of activities, using a Q&A format to help people understand the important concepts underlying the policy and the opportunities for Taiwan‡US cooperation. Even though the content was policy-­oriented, the use of lively illustrations and interactive approaches still drew a great response.

Besides creativity, said Mansour, another key to the success of AIT’s Facebook page has been strategic planning. The new media team at AIT uses short- and long-term activities, series of posts, prize draws, behind-the-scenes stories, and sharing important events in Taiwan‡US relations to give fans something to look forward to, and these fans will then share their favorite posts with other people. Long-term focus on selected themes has enabled AIT to create a fresh image with its friendly, profuse, and knowledge-based presence.

Telling the world about Taiwan

In recent years MOFA has also worked with foreign Internet celebrities so that people in countries not familiar with Taiwan can see Taiwan’s soft power. For example, the Kuwaiti Internet celebrity Abdulkareem Alhendal promoted Taiwanese custard apples via his Instagram account, increasing sales of that fruit in his country. Through this collaborative effort, Abdulkareem Alhendal also experienced the warmth and friendliness of Taiwan, and became a loyal social media fan of MOFA, often sharing Trending Taiwan videos. He even translated the video An SDG a Day into Arabic and shared it on his Instagram; the film, which ­describes Taiwan’s efforts to implement the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, has already drawn more than 1.44 million hits and sparked intense discussion.

“Through Internet celebrities, we can break through filter bubbles and connect with groups of people we never would have reached before,” says José Shao-hua Yang, chief of the Project Management Section at the DIIS. He has discovered from his own experience managing MOFA’s Facebook presence that as a result of filtering by algorithms, the MOFA fan page was finding it difficult to punch through to people with relatively little interest in public affairs, but sharing by Internet celebrities can make Taiwan’s diplomatic efforts visible to more and more people.

Volkan Huang reminds us that “digital diplomacy is not a substitute for conventional diplomacy.” The two must be co­ordin­ated to be effective, because interpersonal inter­actions are the essence of diplomacy.

Taiwan’s digital diplomacy capabilities are growing. Although there are challenges to be faced in terms of manpower allocation and changing attitudes, behind the scenes MOFA’s new media team and editors are using their creativity to raise Taiwan’s visibility in the world. As José Yang puts it: “Through social media, we can build consensus on Taiwan’s foreign affairs positions, and that confidence will help us attract support from around the world!”               

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文‧謝宜婷 圖‧莊坤儒






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國傳司副司長黃志揚表示,外交部目前主要有臉書、推特、Instagram三個社群媒體,還有一個YouTube頻道──Trending Taiwan潮台灣。




2018年世界衛生大會(WHA)舉辦前夕,潮台灣就推出影片「阿巒的作文課」,描述罹患象腿病症的越南女孩阮氏巒,在台灣醫療團隊的幫助下,恢復健康並展開新生活。藉由這個故事,台灣想向世界衛生組織(WHO)表達 “Taiwan can help.”(追求普世健康,台灣能有所貢獻)的實力與決心。影片播出後,吸引了千萬人次觀看,其中觀看者有十分之一來自阿巒的故鄉──越南。其他國家的觀賞者也在留言區表達感動並支持台灣加入WHA。美國國務院東亞暨太平洋事務局也在推特上轉發,表達對台灣醫療的肯定。



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外交部近年來也與國外網紅合作,讓不熟悉台灣的國家看見寶島的軟實力,例如科威特網紅阿不都卡苓(Abdulkareem Alhendal)在他的Instagram帳戶上,推銷台灣的鳳梨釋迦,提升了這款水果在當地的銷售量。經過這次合作,阿不都卡苓也感受到台灣的人情味,因此成了外交部的忠實粉絲,時常主動分享「潮台灣」的影片。之前他還自行為影片「寶島酷日常」翻譯阿拉伯文版本,分享至其Instagram,宣傳台灣如何實踐聯合國「永續發展目標」(SDGs),影片點閱率目前已經超過144萬次,並引起熱烈討論。


「觀看會產生理解,理解就能爭取支持。」黃志揚認為數位外交的精神在於,找尋理念相同的人,爭取他們對台灣的支持,尤其受到國外的意見領袖(Key Opinion Leader, 簡稱KOL)支持時,會讓更多人肯定台灣的美好與實力。

黃志揚也提醒「數位外交不是用來取代傳統外交,」兩者要搭配使用,才能有最佳效果,因為外交的本質還是人與人的互動。像是去年國傳司首次與菲律賓、越南、印度及泰國的電視台合作,製播「攜手台灣(Embracing Taiwan)」電視特輯,國傳司依每個主持人國家的特色,帶領他們至台灣的重要景點,例如軟體工業發達的印度被安排至新竹科學園區及南港軟體園區;以工藝設計著名的泰國,到松山文創園區參訪。主持人也前進大學校園,受到來自故鄉學子的熱烈歡迎。拍攝團隊中,有許多人都是初次到台灣,但是都因這次合作也透過各自臉書、IG網頁宣傳在台見聞,讓粉絲對台灣產生好感,對寶島留下了深刻的印象。




文・謝宜婷 写真・莊坤儒 翻訳・山口 雪菜







国際伝播司の黄志揚・副司長によると、外交部は現在、フェイスブック、ツイッター、インスタグラムの3つのメディアを利用し、またYouTubeチャンネル「Trending Taiwan潮台湾」を運営している。




2018年、WHOの年次総会(WHA)が開催される直前、潮台湾は「ロアンちゃんの作文の授業」という動画を公開した。象皮病に罹患したベトナムの少女グェン・ティ・ロアンさんが、台湾の医療チームの助けを得て健康を取り戻すという物語である。台湾はこの物語を通して、WHOに「Taiwan can help」(すべての人の健康に台湾は貢献できる)という実力と決意を伝えたのである。この動画はのべ1000万人が観賞し、その10分の1はロアンさんの故郷ベトナムの人々だった。ほかの国の多くの人もこの物語に感動し、台湾のWHA参加を支持するメッセージを残した。アメリカ国務省東アジア・太平洋局もツイッターを通して、台湾の医療貢献を評価した。







近年、外交部は海外のインフルエンサーとも協力し、台湾のことをよく知らない外国人に私たちのソフトパワーを紹介している。例えばクウェートのAbdulkareem Alhendalさんはインスタグラムで台湾の果物アテモヤを紹介し、この果物の現地での売り上げが伸びた。今回の協力を通してAbdulkareemさんは外交部ページのファンになり、「潮台湾」の動画をしばしばシェアしている。彼は動画「宝島酷日常」にアラビア語の翻訳をつけてインスタグラムで紹介し、台湾が国連の持続可能な開発目標(SDGs)をどのように実践しているかを伝えた。この動画はのべ144万回再生され、話題となっている。




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